Chapter Twenty Seven: Complication/Collapse

Everything was happening at once in Mirai no Trunks' damaged world. Vejiita fought with Ru Sa in the air, neither aware of the grievous consequences following Ru Sa's action of throwing away the eighth dragonball. A small distance away, Trunks and Cumber followed Reep into the darkness, trying to find the missing dragonball and feeling distinctly pressured to hurry. And further away still, Gohan and Gokuu headed toward Vejiita, intent on doing damage and inflicting justice upon the already belabored Ru Sa.

Now, to be truthful, this all seemed to be destined toward a predictable end; Ru Sa would lose (and perhaps turn good, given the Z-senshi's record of late), Trunks would get the dragonball, and all would be well. After all, Gokuu was in full super-hero-save-the-world mode; nothing ever, ever got in his way successfully when he was.

There were, however, three variables not accounted for in this neat little thesis. The first was that Mirai no Trunks himself was, for obvious reasons, not at all well and was presently attempting to grab Dende. He naturally gravitated toward higher powers, however, and it would only be a matter of time before he decided to abandon the panicked Namek and head toward Gokuu and co. They would have no defense against him, nor would they even know he was coming.

The second was an odd factor that bothered Reep very much indeed; the presence of Bulma, Bra, and Gohan. Nowhere were they mentioned in the prophecy, nor had Reep had any forewarning of their arrival. They were wild cards, and Reep was not sure at all how their inclusion was going to affect the outcome of things. Even worse than that, however, Gohan had arrived in a ship. If Ru Sa somehow managed to get to it, he could escape, and while Reep wasn't that concerned about the justice of the issue, he WAS concerned that one of the main components of the prophecy might leave - in which case, the entire thing would fall apart. The Black would win... and it truly would be the END of all.

The third factor was one that Reep knew very little about, although he knew it was coming. It was one that would affect Gokuu greatly and on a personal level, weakening him to the point that he would be in grave danger. Reep knew Gokuu's love had always been his strength; and now, in a bitter ironic twist - it would also be his enemy.

To put it simply... Chi Chi was about to die.

*

In Satan City, back in the still-existing timeline from which Gokuu and company had come, Chi Chi lay in her hospital bed and concentrated on breathing. Truthfully, this was very painful for her; if it had been entirely up to her, she would have just quit breathing and be done with it, artificial respirators be damned. But she could not do that; Gokuu and Gohan had still not come home.

Piccolo hovered and meditated by her side, the ever-silent guardian. Yes, Gohan was missing - and yes, Gohan's natural mother was dying. And yes - there was nothing that Piccolo could do about either of those. However, he could do one thing: that was to keep watch.

To maintain vigil over the increasingly fragile Son Chi Chi, and to make sure that all was as well as it could be with her. This was the task to which Piccolo had assigned himself, and woe be the nurse or doctor who tried to talk him out of it.

For the doctors' parts, they were used to such shenanigans from the Z-senshi; not one of them had ever been a normal patient. However, as far as Chi Chi was concerned, they were to a one amazed:

There was no way that the woman should still be alive.

Her heart condition had deteriorated to the point that even trying a heart transplant would not help her; the damage done in extent to her body was too much. It was their opinion, one and all, that she was remaining alive by the mere force of will - that she simply refused to give up the ghost and die because she felt an overwhelming need to wait.

Dr. Tanaka, her senior attending physician, regarded her feeble, struggling breaths from the safety of the doorway - out of reach of the green fellow, in case he should feel that Tanaka were bothering her - and frowned in consternation. Willpower was impressive, yes, and could cause a human being to do great feats indeed - but even willpower could only hold out for so long. Stepping gingerly so as not to make the green man irritated, Tanaka took up her chart and looked it over. He bent over her to check her vital signs and time her pulse; he even fiddled with the IV bag a little bit before coming to his conclusion.

When Dr. Tanaka straightened back up again, his face was grim.

"I think we'd better call her family," he said quietly to the expressionless Piccolo. "I'm afraid she doesn't have much longer at all." With that, the good doctor went back out into the hallway, intending to call a nurse and have Ms. Son's family paged and alerted to her condition. Piccolo watched him go without comment; then he turned his head and regarded Chi Chi, who may or may not have even been aware that the doctor was there.

"Hang in there, woman," Piccolo said quietly, gruffly. "Gohan's not back yet, but he will be. You have to live a little longer. There is no choice." His voice lacked conviction. He knew instinctively as well as Chi Chi did that things were happening far too quickly wherever Gohan was, and he would probably not be back in time. That did not mean she would not try to hold out; it simply meant that her body was going to give up long before her spirit quit fighting.

Piccolo regarded her with something like respect. He had always suspected that the kind of woman it took to successfully run the Son family would have to be something special - but he had never imagined such a powerful inner strength. Gokuu had married well when he had married her.

Piccolo sighed and resumed his meditation. He could only hope now that Gohan would, by some miracle, return in time to bid his mother goodbye.

Perhaps that thought had been some kind of prearranged signal. Piccolo covered his ears in pain as alarms and bells of all kinds went off in the room, all coming from Chi Chi's life support units.

Still wincing in pain, Piccolo flew to the door and bellowed for help, not giving a damn about other patients in the hospital. It seemed that Gohan was going to have less time to complete his mission anyone had thought.

*

Back in Mirai no Trunks' world, for one moment and for one man - everything froze.

Gokuu stopped in mid flight on the way toward Vejiita and gripped his chest, a pained expression on his face. Gohan pulled up and flew back to see what was the matter.

"Otousan?" he asked hesitantly, not sure what was wrong.

Gokuu had always had a connection with his loved ones. No matter where he was or what he was doing, no matter if he was alive or dead, he had always known when they were in trouble, in danger, or hurting; and now, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Chi Chi was about to die.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

"N-nothing," he said to his son, and looked up at the sky - which had mysteriously continued to grow lighter. "Chi Chi," he said softly once, and then said something that made no sense to Gohan at all. "I'm sorry, Chi Chi." Then, answering his instinctive call to be the hero, he steeled himself and raced toward Vejiita and Ru Sa once more, a truly terrible look on his face.

Gohan was scared, but he followed anyway. He had only seen his father look like that once before, and that was when Kuririn had died at the hands of Freeza - a long, LONG time ago. And this terrible something apparently had to do with his mother...

Oh, God, he prayed silently, to whom he did not know. Oh God help us all, and then he followed after his father under the steadily lightening sky.

***

Time was running short, and the Nameks were missing. There was a very good reason for this, and it could be summed up in three simple words: Reep's Back-up Plan.

Ideally and simplistically, the idea was for Hikari Trunks - the good one, not the one currently under control of the Black - to get his hands on the eighth dragonball and call forth Gai, the dragon. Previous to this climactic event, Dende would probably have the dragonball - or Moot, preferably, because the boy COULD make it glow - and he/they would transfer the thing safely to Trunks.

However, the damage of the Canopy had changed all that. Now, Kuro Trunks was in here along with everybody else, and he was in a position to do serious damage. If he were to get his hands on any of the key players, or worse yet the dragonball itself, the game would be over before it had fully begun. Hence, something would have to be done about him.

Now, Reep was "good," inasmuch as a being created for one sole purpose could be deemed "good" or "evil." However, that did not mean he was not cold-hearted when he needed to be.

Right now, the entire universe - all the universes - stood at risk of dissolution. If Hikari Trunks failed, or Gai was not called in time, there would be nothing left but the Original timeline - and that was empty.

The most important thing needed to prevent this from happening was the distraction of Kuro Trunks. He could not be killed, and fighting him would be pointless because he absorbed energy and wanted to touch his victims. Therefore: distraction was really the only hope. To that end, the sacrifice of a few Nameks was more than excused; in fact, it was absolutely necessary.

Of course, Reep did not explain this to them that way; instead, as the Kyuujinshu ship began to land, he shouted to the Nameks gathered around the building that Dende was in trouble, and they needed to help - all of which was true. And then, his conscience none the heavier, he had gone hopping off in Hikari Trunks' direction, determined to get the boy to the dragonball safely. It was only a temporary sacrifice anyway; if all went as planned, then everything would be restored, and there would BE no major loss of Namek life. At least, this was how Reep explained it to himself. He was fond of the Nameks; fond of them, oddly enough, in the same way they were of him - as something strange, wonderful, and very unique. In fact, he had grown to care for Moot in particular a great deal.

Perhaps that was why he had seen to it that the child would be pinned safely behind the Capsule Corporation and out of reach of Kuro Trunks.

There were no minor gods left in this universe to question Reep's morality, and as his pragmatic approach was at least getting results, he for one was not about to complain. All that mattered now was that the prophecy be fulfilled, and the cost was utterly negligible - at least, from his point of view. The good guys would be weakened enough as a group when Gokuu fell. No more mistakes could be afforded.

Reep considered that as he hopped toward Hikari Trunks and the nice one, Cumber. Gokuu did not have much longer before he did fall, and it really was a shame that nobody knew it but Reep. After all, no one would ever expect Gokuu to be weakened by the one thing that always kept him strong -

His love.

Ah, well. Surprises were the spice of life. Reep hopped on toward Trunks and Cumber and pondered that no more.

***

Bee was a very faithful dog. In fact, he was actually quite courageous - although to look at him, one would not think so; he was simply too cute to be a real hero. Mind you, no one had apparently told Bee that.

As the Kyuujinshu's ship landed and everyone began to scatter, Bee had been paying attention to one thing: the location of Dende. And so, when Reep had announced that Dende was in trouble and then hopped off, Bee alone knew where to find him. He had barked derisively at the other Nameks for daring to just SIT there when his beloved Dende was in trouble, and then darted off.

It had only taken a moment for the remainder of the Namek elders to get enough wits together to go after him - they'd finally be able to do some good instead of sitting around like a pointy-eared and exceedingly useless peanut gallery - but by that time, Bee had already found Dende... as well as what was chasing him.

*

Dende was thoroughly terrified. Like a black-eyed zombie, Kuro Trunks plodded after him with a frightening regularity, neither increasing nor decreasing the distance between them. Apparently, he was trying to wear Dende out or frighten him to death, whichever came first.

In a way, it made sense; the original purpose of the Black had been to frighten and hurt the damned souls of demons anyway, and so it might be argued that Kuro Trunks was merely doing his job. Dende, however, was not overly glad for the attention.

He was pretty much out of ki; the exploits of the last week or so had seen to that. The Saiyans and everyone else were too far away to help him, and it seemed utterly impossible for him to catch his breath. Of course, scuttling like a crab on his back was not helping; he had fallen when Kuro Trunks had made his first appearance, and had not dared to take the time to stand upright yet.

Kuro Trunks did not seem put out by the oddity of Dende's position; he stomped along after him, the nearly invisible black wisps of... stuff... coming up from his body looking very much like heat waves from sun-warmed asphalt. He was gaunt, slack-mouthed; his eyes were completely black, and he marched with one hand outstretched as if to bestow a blessing - or a curse. Merely looking at him was enough to make the soul chill and the heart stop. All of these lovely details could be seen in sharp relief due to the sky that had inexplicably been growing steadily lighter; all the better to see you with, my dear.

Dende continued scrabbling backwards, trying desperately not to trip himself up on his robe. At least, he thought to himself breathlessly, I managed to do SOME good before the inevitable caught up with me; and at that moment, Bee arrived.

The brave little dog, knowing instinctively not to touch Kuro Trunks' flesh, did a simple move that many little dogs do when begging for food or attention; he leapt up on his hind legs and slammed into the back of Kuro Trunks' knees.

This version of Trunks, not really having a functioning brain to work with, fell immediately, and Dende had to roll out of his way. Bee barked like mad, hopping back and forth as though he was dealing with a poisonous snake.

Dende finally managed to stand up. "Bee, get OUT of here!" he shouted, waving his arms and having no clear idea of what he was doing. And in half a moment, he suddenly found himself surrounded by Nameks.

"Wha..." he began, but the others left no time for discussion.

"Come on, Dende!" Bulb shouted and started running, gripping the very confused Dende by one arm and dragging him along. Kuro Trunks merely continued to stare in the general direction of the yipping, bounding Bee as though fascinated.

Very abruptly, Dende tripped on something. It took him half a moment to realize that something was the eighth dragonball - and then Bulb was dragging him beyond it.

"Wait! Hey! We need that!" he shouted and pointed, and one of the other Nameks snatched it up as he ran by. How it had gotten there, nobody knew, but it would certainly not be LEFT there for Kuro Trunks to get his hands on. Dende tried not to worry too much about what might have happened to Moot...

This brought the term "thinking on your feet" to an entirely new level.

And as though the dragonball was emitting a siren call that none but him could hear, Kuro Trunks suddenly lurched to his feet, responding to an instinct deeper than anything they could understand, and began trotting after them.

***

Vejiita had no idea what was about to happen; he had no premonitions of doom, no heavy feelings regarding an inevitable future. He only knew two things: he really, really hated Ru Sa, and the stubborn man was refusing to die.

Well - perhaps he knew one more thing. Apparently, Ru Sa hated him as much as he hated Ru Sa.

It might have had something to do with that last comment the evil, evil man had made regarding this world's Bulma; similarly, it might merely have to do with the way in which Ru Sa had dealt with Vejiita and his kin, as opposed to the way he had dealt with Kakarotto and his. Whatever the reason, a realization was dawning on Vejiita with frightening clarity, and as he became aware of it he only wanted to know one thing: why?

Ru Sa was fighting as though he wanted revenge.

Why? What had Vejiita or his children ever done to this man that he would hate them so much? It made no sense, and yet the more they fought, the more Vejiita was convinced of this fact. Ru Sa fought with a kind of ferocity, a blood-thirsty desire for violence that went beyond the feral norm and pushed the boundaries of self-preservation. Vejiita recognized the look. He had worn it more than a few times himself.

That fact right there was enough to condemn Ru Sa to death at Vejiita's hands; no one touched those that were his and lived. NO one. Of course, this made the urgency of the situation a bit stronger; if Vejiita wanted to finish Ru Sa before Kakarotto interfered - as he inevitably would - then he would have to hurry.

Gritting his teeth, Vejiita continued to slam into Ru Sa, punctuating each blow with a favorite trick of his: he charged his fists with ki and delivered double the power with every punch. Far be it from HIM to allow a little thing like superior physical strength to provide an opening for his enemy.

"What is your PROBLEM?" he finally shouted at one point when the combatants were separated enough to catch their respective breaths. Ru Sa hung in the air, wiping blood off his face and panting. He merely glared at Vejiita and did not answer.

He was angry. Very angry. The entire purpose of his casual Bulma-related remark had been to get Vejiita close enough to be attacked and drained. All it had done, however, was incense him and bring him close enough to fight like a wild thing. The prince simply would not let him grab hold; and extra physical strength or no, a little thing like a ki level at least four times his own made a major difference in this battle.

And the little prince wanted some answers. Ha. As if Ru Sa would even deign to TALK with this destroyer of worlds, this evil thing, bred from evil, spawning further evil... responsible ultimately for the Black because his own damned son had set it loose...

Vejiita watched Ru Sa's face carefully as these thoughts crossed the other man's mind, and as he did he realized something else he could add to the list of Ru Sa-esque adjectives. The captain was mad. Mad as a hatter, to use the earthling phrase - in fact, it was entirely possible that he had just SEEN the captain snap. It disgusted Vejiita somewhat. Good fighter; shame he had to be nuts.

"Fine," Vejiita said, "I don't have to know why you hate me. I don't CARE why you want revenge. You dared to touch what was mine - and you do NOT harm what is Vejiita's and walk away undamaged! Prepare to die, fool!" And having made his little speech, Vejiita charged again - only to be interrupted from an expected but nevertheless irritating source: Kakarotto.

Gokuu came out of nowhere and slammed into Ru Sa from the side, knocking both himself and his target out of Vejiita's range.

"NO!" roared Vejiita, furious that his prey was taken away from him. "Kami... DAMNIT!" he cursed, scowling in the general direction of the light-blur that was Gokuu. All right, so the younger man had his own bone to pick with the captain; Ru Sa HAD killed Gohan and Goten, after all, but Vejiita had seen him first, and -

"Vejiita?" said a soft voice from behind him, and the Saiyan prince spun to see the last person in the world he had expected to see: Gohan.

He stared.

"You... you're alive!" he managed to splutter, for the moment sufficiently distracted from Gokuu's vicious fight so as not to notice the direction in which they were moving: the Capsule Corporation.

Gohan smiled hesitantly. "Yes, I am," he said. "And so are you. What a coincidence, eh?"

Vejiita continued to stare. Well... that was... Well. Full of surprises, those Son boys were.

Vejiita peeked over Gohan's shoulder as though expecting to see Goten trailing behind, but instead of seeing Gokuu's youngest son he saw something else.

He could see, in the steadily lightening sky, what looked like a bunch of Nameks running like mad from an emaciated Trunks and tossing a large, reddish ball back and forth between them.

"What in hell..." he started to ask, and that was when tragedy struck.

You see, something had been happening slowly and consistently in the background of all this activity; something that no one could see or hear or sense. The Black - having been mutated by traveling through the holes the Kyuujinshu's ship had left, had gone full circle and was now coming back to Mirai no Trunks' world. Why did this matter? For two reasons:

One, this different form of the Black was much, much more dangerous than its original state; the original Black at least left husks of planets and could not penetrate anything coated in Junsei Aion. This new Black did not have either of those limitations.

The second reason was not as simple, and in fact was quite bizarre: as it moved, this mutated Black had a whirlpool effect on all the realities it touched, warping and twisting and actually dragging them along in its path, crushing them together and making them all one. As the new Black was approaching Mirai no Trunks' world, from whence it had originated, it was in a sense completing a circle - joining with itself, and connecting its path into one continuous flow.

And dragging all of reality with it.

As Gokuu attacked Ru Sa, taking out on that man all of his angst concerning sons and wife and friend, the sky up above him abruptly seemed to open into bright white light - but not light from this universe.

It was light from universes that had been mutated and pulled through the dimensional walls to merge forcibly with this one. The result was not good.

For a moment, everyone froze completely as their minds were forced to accept the information from a dozen other versions of themselves - merging, as they were, by force, merely because the new Black was making it so. And in that moment, something horrible happened: Chi Chi's world, which had not yet been completely destroyed, came into contact with this one.

The planet seemed to flicker, shifting between one dimension and another, now filled with cars and trees and people, now back to the barren landscape that comprised what it really was. Panting, Gokuu saw St. Satan hospital flash into being for half a moment, and with that preternatural clarity of mind's eye he always seemed to have, he saw Chi Chi - lying on her bed, and breathing her last breaths.

"Chi Chi!" he shouted, distracted, and Ru Sa chose that exact moment to strike.

It happened so quickly; and with everyone confused and disoriented by this forced coagulation of realities, no one reacted in time. Ru Sa grabbed both sides of Gokuu's head and pressed his mouth to Gokuu's own.

Within seconds, Gokuu was drained of all his strength and was all but dead himself.

"NO!" shouted Gohan, horrified to see what had been done to him being done to another, and he slammed into Ru Sa - but too late. Gokuu, looking old, so old beyond his years and frail beyond recognition, fell limply to the ground and moved no more.

What happened then was perhaps what could only be expected. Ru Sa, with Gokuu's strength atop his own, overpowered Gohan quite easily and batted him to the ground.

The sky continued to flash - black, blue, white, red - whatever the sky's color happened to be in whatever dimension was dominant at that moment. And all Vejiita could do was stare at Gokuu.

Kakarotto... never lost. Kakarotto just did not lose, and.... he... never... lost. He NEVER LOST. This was... this was unexpec-

The blow that hit him then could have only come from Kakarotto himself - or one who had his power. It was enough to knock him quite senseless and render him as useless as Kakarotto AND Kakarotto's son. And then for all intents and purposes, it was over. Completely over.

Chi Chi died without ever seeing her husband again. She passed as easily as water through a sieve, there one breath and gone the next. She had relatively little pain, and in her passing, she missed the crush of her world and the destruction of all who lived there. In a sense, she was very, very lucky.

Gokuu lay unconscious, unaware even that Chi Chi was gone and that his own life lay in peril; Gohan sprawled on the ground some distance away, knocked senseless and ridiculously out-matched even if he had been awake. And Vejiita... well, Ru Sa had plans for Vejiita, and none of them were very nice. He would wish he'd been allowed to die quickly by the time Ru Sa was done with him. The captain, looking pensive and pleasant, calmly took out his ki staple gun and began pinning Saiyans to the wall like bugs.

Dende saw all this from a distance, as did the other Nameks, but none of them had time to worry about it. Kuro Trunks was less than impressed by the fireworks and merely kept coming. Dende did not know what to do; there was no sign of Reep, Cumber, or the other Trunks at all, and he did not know which direction in to turn. So, panicking, he led the group toward the other side of the Capsule Corporation, where another surprise awaited them: Bulma in full vengeance-from-hell mode.

In the Capsule Corporation, Bulma had screamed bloody murder when she saw Vejiita fall, sure that he had been killed as he was so often in her dreams. And then, with a cold, hard motion of will, she decided that it did not matter. What mattered was making sure that Ru Sa did not get out of this alive. That was all.

The world seemed to be crashing down around their ears; she had no idea why the sky was flashing like that, nor why these other memories were being forced on her, but she knew that did not matter, either. Looking at Bra's still sleeping form for one moment, she came to her decision.

Clutching the girl protectively to her chest, Bulma snuck out the back door with a simple goal: damage Gohan's ship beyond repair, and NObody was getting out of here.

So infuriated was she that it never occurred to her to slip inside with her not-daughter and leave herself; her only goal was revenge. Perhaps, in the end, it was for the best that she did so. After all, the prophecy had to be fulfilled, and that could not happen without certain stimuli; certain things had to happen to make the characters involved do what they were supposed to do, and Bulma, whether she knew it or not, was one of them.

Of this, Bulma neither knew nor cared. As Ru Sa, all unaware, gloated under the flickering sky and had fun with his ki staple device, Bulma worked with clenched teeth on the other side of the building and viciously tinkered with Gohan's machine. She was going to get revenge. And woe to the person who tried to stop her.

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